Prospect relationship marketing is the process of gathering together a list of companies that on the face of it should be interested in your product or service, and then calling them. This is usually defined by the kind of needs a company of that type and size may have. If you produce widgets, they might be a manufacturer that use widgets on their production line. One by one you’ll target, reach, and discuss their requirement. Your success will be incumbent on your ability to get under the skin of buyers, understand their needs, and communicate how you and your business can serve those needs. In short, this is relationship building. It’s rapport. It’s empathy.
Empathy is the ability to see things through someone else’s viewpoint, and to sense, understand and feel another person’s emotions. We’ve always known that empathy is a really important trait in life. In business, especially in sales, it is the pixie dust that makes magic happen. But empathy is an elusive quality that’s hard to emulate if you’re not quite feeling it. This is because it’s a trait. Some might even say, it’s a genetically determined characteristic, so you either have it or you don’t. People who aren’t natural empathisers must therefore learn the skills and behaviours associated with empathy, for their prospect marketing to yield relationships worth having.
I feel your pain
Because real empathy is a scarce and valuable thing, certain expressions and idioms have crept into the world of prospect relationship marketing. Many of them need to creep right back out again. I feel your pain is definitely one of them. Like the politician to a constituent complaining about their drains, the expression is used for fake care. Far better to meet genuine needs with basic authentic language such as ‘I completely understand what you’re saying’. Being the authentic straight up you is always better for creating warmth and empathy in a call than jargon, idioms, or language that people around you might adopt. People still buy people so work on your techniques by all means, but resist the temptation to absorb language or behaviours that aren’t really you.
Listen to hear, not to respond
In sales, we’re told to ‘show empathy’, this is actually a bit of an oxymoron. Empathy isn’t something you show, if it is, it’s fake. It’s saying ‘hey I listened to you, my turn now’. You don’t show empathy, you have empathy. There’s a big difference. When you show empathy you listen to respond, having empathy means you listen to hear. And if you listen to hear, you’re far more likely to get to the bottom of what someone needs, and your work goes beyond just mere prospect relationship marketing. Most companies can look at their most active, or best loved clients and trace the relationship back to the first contact. Communicating in a way that resonates well and makes a lasting impact demands that we listen. Carefully and deeply listen. Only when we’ve understood and calibrated what our buyer wants, should we respond.
And speaking of an oxymoron, the term ‘deafening silence’ is a good one. It is used to describe those excruciating moments of silence after you’ve asked a question, and your buyer is reflecting, calibrating what you’ve said, and formulating an answer. For your prospect relationship marketing to be a success, you have to learn not to jump in and fill the silence. Often the agony of those moments cause us to say something, offer a multiple-choice option, or suggest answers to the question. We know why it happens. But don’t do it. It’s an empathy murdering tactic. Instead, when the silence is painful, remember it may seem like minutes, but it’s really just seconds. A good way to avoid the temptation to jump in and fill the void is to count on your fingers. Actually, hold the fingers of your hand up one by one. It’s almost impossible to do that fast. By the time you got to five, the buyer will speak.
That’s interesting, tell me more
People love being listened to. It is, without doubt, one of the best methods of learning to be more empathetic. It’s also one of the best prospect marketing tools available for nurturing meaningful relationships. And you get to learn what the buyer wants you to put on the table if you’re going to win their confidence. Open questions begin with the words what, when, how, why, and where. They’re a great way to get people talking because you can’t answer the question with a simple yes or no, they generally require thought and expansive answers. So open questions will always have a big part to play in creating empathy, because they lay the groundwork for you to listen and your relationship marketing to happen. But open questions aren’t the only gig in town. Growing your questions from something your buyer has said is a beautifully empathetic way of building your relationship. ‘That’s interesting, tell me more’ and similar responses will help you invite more explanation.
The bottom line here is that undoubtedly, to show care, you have to care. To demonstrate empathy, you need to put the needs of another first. Being properly engaged in calls, visualising a person in your mind as you speak, and knowing what’s special about your business will help you build the pixie dust qualities of empathy. The positive impact on your prospect relationship marketing will make the extra effort worthwhile. Even better though, the increased meaning and satisfaction this affords us in our careers is nothing less than pixie magic.